Liverpool's impending title means more not less: Neil Humphreys
Henderson knows EPL must remember bigger picture
Jordan Henderson had the right word for Liverpool's current title predicament.
The prospect of lifting the English Premier League trophy inside an empty stadium would be "pretty strange", according to the Reds' skipper in a BBC interview.
The midfielder's description of a celebration amid the Covid-19 pandemic was like his style of play - precise, efficient and slyly underrated.
Of course winning a title behind closed doors will be strange. We're all essentially living behind closed doors at the moment. Everything is strange.
But there's a clear distinction between strange and wrong. Henderson chose his words wisely. There will be nothing wrong with a Liverpool title.
Gary Neville's insistence that this year's trophy must be engraved with an asterisk might be partisan banter, but his goading supports a common perception that this season no longer counts.
The trophy doesn't matter any more. The winners will be less worthy.
Such a perception is true only in the most literal sense. EPL titles are not as important as death tolls, infection rates, tracing apps and personal protective equipment, but nothing else is either.
Experts that specialise in the blindingly obvious continue to remind us that the EPL will not be the same, along with attendances, atmospheres, goal celebrations and post-season title parades.
Twitter continues to throw up humourless posts about Bundesliga fixtures lacking colour, presumably for the benefit of anyone expecting a game behind closed doors to rival the gaiety of Cirque du Soleil.
We get it. Games will be quiet.
There will be a chance to savour the rare opportunity of hearing international icons abusing each other in different languages. It'll be football as we've never seen it before.
But it'll still be football.
Henderson refused to make the lazy leap from "different product" to "insignificant product", recognising that Liverpool's inevitable title triumph will arguably matter even more now.
The Reds' captain spearheaded the wonderful PlayersTogether scheme on April 8, an initiative that directed funds to healthcare staff and patients in Britain.
Through his charity work, he has direct experience of Covid-19's devastating impact on the city of Liverpool, a tragedy replicated in cities and communities across the world.
Having liaised with healthcare professionals, he presumably hasn't met too many lamenting the idea of EPL matches being played in front of empty plastic seats. Anfield's attendance figures are not high on anyone's list of priorities.
Just as it's hard to picture an exhausted doctor and Liverpool supporter refusing to raise a glass for his team's title triumph on the ideological basis that the Reds' final nine games were played in deserted stadiums.
At this point, who cares? Who seriously cares?
Lockdown exasperation took hold weeks ago. Endless queues for temperature checks, groceries and masks have long since worn away any lingering hopes of life - let alone football - returning to the old normal.
As Covid-19 shifted perspectives, most of us have wearily accepted our diminished expectations. We can't visit extended family regularly. We can't dine in restaurants. We can't even be sure of keeping our jobs.
So we can probably accept a Liverpool title where nine games of an otherwise spellbinding season were compromised.
Covid-19 has redefined the terms of our existence. Making concessions is the new normal. How Liverpool win the title is now far less important than just winning the title.
A 25-point advantage over Manchester City deserves resolution rather than regret, but the sporting reasons for allowing the Reds to fulfil their destiny are arguably the most superficial.
Watching jubilant men hold aloft the EPL trophy to the sound of near silence, while social distancing from their teammates, will be a surreal experience, as Henderson pointed out, but a necessary one.
EXPERIENCE OF POSITIVITY
A title celebration evokes joy. It drags a global audience together - even the Liverpool haters - for a rare, shared experience of positivity. More importantly, it's a brief glimpse of a life lived before Covid-19.
Continuity matters. We need to remember how things were.
Henderson said that Liverpool "just have to deal with" the possibility of winning home alone, as it were, and organise a "celebration together" at a later date.
But the fans will be celebrating together. That's the point. From Liverpool to Little India, they'll be dancing in their living rooms.
And from Manchester to Marine Parade, another team in red will be swearing in their living rooms.
It'll be strange, for sure. But it'll be a step towards something resembling old sporting rivalries and a new way of life.
And that's why, to paraphrase Liverpool's slogan, this particular title really does mean more.